Review: There is ‘No Escape’ from your own demons.

SYNOPSIS: A social media star travels with his friends to Moscow to capture new content for his successful VLOG. Always pushing the limits and catering to a growing audience, he and his friends enter a cold world of mystery, excess, and danger. As the line between real life and social media is blurred, the group must fight to escape and survive.

NO ESCAPE puts a modern, social media-driven twist on the ultimate adventure seeker. Think Hostel (2005) meets The Game (1997) as Youtube influencer Cole (Keegan Allen) and his friends fly to Moscow to experience what they think is a one-of-a-kind escape room. Once they arrive, they’re wined and dined by a local rich kid before being led to their final destination. But not all is what it seems. As an avid watcher of all things horror, the setup rightfully lulls you into a false sense of fun with its club scene music, lighting, and awesome camera work. Then the other shoe drops, calling out Cole’s obsession with his stats over his own reality. His cocky persona is knocked down several pegs when he realizes his friends’ lives are in actual danger.

The film is written and directed by Will Wernick (Escape Room, which was fantastic), will easily tap into the younger generation who has literally grown up with social media. At 40, I was around for the birth of chat rooms in 8th grade. As someone who is at the mercy of social media in my work now, I understand the importance and the danger of such platforms. The internet is a weird place. One of the most effective pieces of the script is the ever-rolling comment section of Cole’s videos. It’s a fantastic insight into an audience “in real-time.” While the entire cast does a great job and has believable chemistry, Keegan Allen’s performance leads this film to success. Having been a fan since Pretty Little Liars, then watching his award-worthy skills in King Cobra, No Escape highlights his ability to change from beat to beat. The over-the-top influencer voice throughout much of the film falls away when fear takes hold. The ending of this film relies completely on his reaction, and it is warranted. No Escape, while hitting some familiar notes, is still a solidly acted, practical fx gorefest for genre fans. The emotional trauma goes both ways and it’s one hell of social commentary. Hot Tip: Keep watching once the credits start to roll.

Vertical Entertainment will release the horror/thriller film NO ESCAPE on Digital and On Demand on September 18, 2020. 

NO ESCAPE stars the ensemble cast of Keegan Allen (“Pretty Little Liars,” Palo Alto), Holland Roden (“Teen Wolf”, “Channel Zero”), Denzel Whitaker (“The Purge”, Black Panther), Ronen Rubinstein (“911: Lone Star” Some Kind of Hate)Pasha Lychnikoff (“Deadwood”,”Shameless”, A Good Day to Die Hard), George Janko (“NCIS: Los Angeles,” Millennial Mafia) and Siya (The First Purge). The film is written and directed by Will Wernick (Escape Room).

Review: ‘The Postcard Killings’ keeps things twisted.

In The Postcard Killings, based on the James Patterson and Liza Marklund #1 New York Times bestselling novel, NY Detective Jacob Kanon’s (Jeffery Dean Morgan) world is destroyed when his daughter and son-in-law are brutally murdered in London. Unable to sit idly by and do nothing, Jacob travels to London get the answers he needs. As he learns of similar heinous murders happening across Europe – each preceded by a postcard sent to a local journalist – Jacob is in a race against time to stop the killings and find justice for his little girl.

Famke Janssen becomes more relevant as Jacob’s ex-wife Val in the second half. She is his eyes and ears on a lead back in the States. Her ever dark, brooding, and strong presence was the perfect casting choice. Denis O’Hare‘s startling appearance is awesome. He can essentially do no wrong and is one of the most sought after character actors working, just ask Ryan Murphy. Jeffery Dean Morgan, who I have adored since his Supernatural days, has superstar range. Not only does he have a booming voice but truly dashing good looks. He owns the entire screen whenever he appears. Here, he plays NYPD detective thrust into the honeymoon murder investigation of his own daughter and son-in-law in London. When the details seem familiar, he makes it his mission to find the killer on an international chase. Morgan has the ability to say very little but expresses so much simply through a glance. He is undeniably fantastic. I hope we see more big-screen appearances once The Walking Dead comes to an end.

Opening with some gruesome imagery, The Postcard Killings immediately captures your interest. The script is thoroughly engrossing. It has a bit of a Se7en feel with a body horror aspect. Just when you think you know what’s going on, think again. As bodies pile up, clues are revealed that will both intrigue and shock. You will place yourself in Jacob ‘s shoes. One hour in, you will be thrown so much information and the tonal shift will knock you down. You will never be bored. The international locations are stunning, mixed with the light orchestral score, The Postcard Killings is an entertaining thriller.

RLJE Films will release THE POSTCARD KILLINGS in theaters and On Demand and Digital on March 13, 2020. The film is based on the #1 New York Times bestselling novel “The Postcard Killers” by James Patterson and Liza Marklund.

THE POSTCARD KILLINGS stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan ( “The Walking Dead”), Famke Janssen (X-Men franchise), Cush Jumbo (“The Good Fight”), Joachim Król (Run Lola Run), Steven Mackintosh (Rocketman), and Denis O’Hare (“American Horror Story”). Written by Andrew Stern (Disconnect), Ellen Furman (The Infiltrator), Liza Marklund and Tove Alsterdal, the film was directed by Academy Award Winner Danis Tanovic (No Man’s Land).

Review: Scary Movies XII’s Opening Night Film ‘VILLAINS’ is terrifyingly good.

presents

Scary Movies XII’s Opening Film

VILLAINS

Opening In Theaters Nationwide This Fall

Two hilariously small-time millennial robbers break into the wrong house. Something is clearly amiss when Jules and Mickey are confronted by the owners. In an attempt to do the right thing, they are faced with challenges no one will see coming. Evil comes in many forms.

The film has fantastic framing and awesome camera work. Beautifully sprinkled horror homages keep genre fans in a state of pure delight. This is already a crowd-pleaser less than 15 minutes into its 89 minute run-time. The animation under the final credits is like a drug induced plot recap. I am obsessed. The script is quirky is wonderful. With stylistic elements that reminded me of The People Under The Stairs, it’s a film you’ll have to go back and watch to catch all the little details.
Bill Skarsgård and Maika Monroe are young balls of energy. Both quickly becoming genre icons in their own right, these two make a stunning pair. Their chemistry feels super organic and appropriately playful. By the end you will be genuinely invested in their survival. Homeowners Kyra Sedgwick and Jeffrey Donovan are total creeps. Sedgwick, in particular, will blow you away with a complex performance. They are a perfect foil for Jules and Mickey. It’s scary what we’ll do for love.

You’ll be totally enamored with Villains from start to finish. It’s funny and bizarre as hell. It has a classic feel but somehow completely fresh all at once. From the acting to the cinematography to the smart script, directors Dan Berk & Robert Olsen have a real winner on their hands.

Written & Directed by | Dan Berk & Robert Olsen

Starring | Bill Skarsgård, Maika Monroe, Jeffrey Donovan & Kyra Sedgwick

Co-Produced by | BRON Studios, Star Thrower Entertainment, Creative Wealth Media Finance & The Realm Films

Review: Go head over heels for ‘Ode to Joy.’

Martin Freeman sports an American accent in this film based on a story from This American Life. Charlie has a rare disorder that causes him to pass out when he experiences strong emotions but especially joy. This makes life and dating especially difficult. With odd coping mechanisms that keep him in a constant state of depression and boredom, he meets Francesca, a woman that challenges his sense of dull stability. When their first date goes awry, Charlie insists on setting her up with his very different younger brother, Cooper. Francesca must overcome her own fears while Charlie comes to grips with his disorder and stop making excuses. How does he really want to live his life?
The entire cast is a delight. Jake Lacy as Cooper is an amazing foil for Freeman. Young and hungry for more than a good time, he’s funny and a very relatable character, for better or for worse. Jane Curtin as Francesca’s ailing Aunt Sylvia is as lovable and sarcastic as Jane Curtin always is. Melissa Rauch as Charlie’s interim love interest is hilarious in her serious love of anything and everything tedious. Morena Baccarin is honest and grounded with an exuberant spirit. My girl-crush since her Firefly days, she’s also clearly a secret Timelord, but let’s not confuse fandoms. Martin Freeman is ridiculously charming. I cannot help but get wrapped up in each role he plays. He’s simply wonderful.
The rom-com is alive and well, people. Ode to Joy is a unique indie that’s sure to be a knockout this summer. It opens in theaters, on digital and On Demand this Friday. Check out the trailer below!

TITLE: ODE TO JOY

IN THEATERS: August 9, 2019

ON DIGITAL AND ON DEMAND: August 9, 2019

DIRECTOR: Jason Winer

WRITER: Max Werner

CAST: Martin Freeman, Morena Baccarin, Melissa Rauch, Jake Lacy, Jane Curtin, Shannon Woodward, Adam Shapiro

SYNOPSIS:  Martin Freeman (The Hobbit) has fallen in love and can’t get up. A man’s fervent attempts at subverting happiness once it begins to cause him bouts of narcolepsy are put to the ultimate test when he falls in love.

GENRE: Comedy

RUN TIME:  97 Mins

RATING: R

DISTRIBUTOR: IFC Films

Review: ‘The Operative’ deserves a pace that matches its performances.

SYNOPSIS:
“The Operative” is a taut psychological thriller about a young Western woman (Diane Kruger) recruited by the Mossad to go undercover in Tehran where she becomes entangled in a complex triangle with her handler (Martin Freeman) and her subject (Cas Anvar).
New thriller, based on Yiftach R. Atir‘s book, The English Teacher, The Operative shines when Martin Freeman‘s voiceovers guide the narrative along and when we actually see operations play out. You can feel the anxiety of the missions in real-time. Before I knew this was based upon the novel, the film brought a recognizably literary feel to its structure. Though you could easily cut 20 mins from this film’s first half without altering the intent or style. The story truly revolves around the protection of two people. Its emotional complexity is beguiling and that’s what keeps you watching.
Diane Kruger delivers a nuanced performance. The gears are turning in those quiet moments and you know there is much more going on from the very beginning. She is vulnerable and a bit mysterious. Martin Freeman is a star. He absolutely owns this role. A fan since Hitchhiker’s Guide and Sherlock, it’s incredible to see him in more and more lead roles that show is ever-expansive range. Cas Anvar is charming and powerful. He’s a real delight to watch. The Operative has a great overall plot. Intimately shot and superbly acted, it’s a solid spy thriller.

THE OPERATIVE
DISTRIBUTOR:
 Vertical Entertainment
THEATRICAL RELEASE DATE: August 2, 2019
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: Yuval Adler
STARRING: Diane Kruger, Martin Freeman, and Cas Anvar
RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes
RATING: not yet rated

Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 review: Let us all worship at the altar of ‘THE DIVINE FURY’.

The Divine Fury

After losing his father at a young age in a terrible accident, Yong-hu (Park Seo-jun) abandons his Christian faith and chooses to only believe in himself. Now as an adult, Yong-hu is a champion fighter and has everything he has ever wanted, that is until mysterious wounds appear in the palms of his hands. He solicits help from a local priest Father Ahn (Ahn Sung-ki), hoping the priest can help relieve him of the painful markings, only to find himself in the middle of a dangerous fight against otherworldly evil forces seeking to wreak havoc on the human world.

Set against the neon lights of Seoul, The Divine Fury utilizes incredibly effective special fx mixed with a dynamic plot of good vs evil. Roman Catholic use of exorcism is rare and must be approved by the Vatican. As a former Catholic school kid and genre fans since the age of 2, I know this to be fact… At least as factual as one can attribute to organized religion in general. All that aside, The Divine Fury adds an extra supernatural element by giving an MMA fighter a demon expelling stigmata superpower. It takes faith into a genre-bending underworld and it is fascinating. From the very first shot with its heightened sound editing, you know you’re in for a ride. There is never a dull moment during its 2-hour runtime. The fight choreography is outstanding and meticulously specific to this unique plot (Think MMA meets demon streetfighter goodness). As a “lapsed Catholic” viewer, it does a brilliant job of melding together religion and otherworldly lore for one hell of an entertaining storyline. I cannot express how truly fun this film is. As the closing film of Fantasia International Film Festival 2019, The Divine Fury puts this year’s selections over the top.

Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 review: ‘The Deeper You Dig’ will never let you rest in peace.

THE DEEPER YOU DIG

In the aftermath of a roadside accident, the line between the living and the dead collapses for a mother, a daughter and a stranger.

This is one of the most unique films of this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival. The fact that our three stars wrote, directed and shot this film is absolutely astounding. The script is filled with intrigue from the get-go. You can feel the isolation of the Catskills location and the weather exacerbates the ominous tone. I’m a born and bred New Englander so I know what it feels like, smells like, sounds like to have a woodsy area covered in snow. I grew up with snow tires, daring to trek out in snowy weather when all else stayed home for safety. This super cool family dynamic works wonders on film. Not just between mother and daughter, but the trust that John and Toby must have had in an elaborately choreographed climax. Not to mention the gruesome violence inflicted on each of them during the course of the film. Toby Poser as Ivy is grounded and complicated. Her character’s intuition and boldness make her a strong hero. Zelda Adams as Echo (which, by the way, the name is a total double entendre for the plot and ridiculously genius) is pretty magical in both her vulnerability and her playfulness. John Adams as Kurt is scary. His slow descent haunted madness is wild. I was completely enthralled by these performances and the writing. Not only is it a complex ghost story, but it has intense dreamlike trances, communication with otherworldly spirits, and pure guilt-driven vitriol is quite a thing to behold. The practical and special FX are damn good. This talented trio of filmmakers deserves attention and applause. The Deeper You Dig had a visceral effect on me. This film will stay with me for a while and I am proud to highly recommend it.

THE DEEPER YOU DIG

 

Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 review: ‘HARPOON’ is a wild ride of deceit on the high seas.

Wealthy Richard (Christopher Gray) is prone to fits of violent anger, particularly when he believes his girlfriend Sasha (Emily Tyra) is cheating on him with his best friend Jonah (Munro Chambers) — who’s been having worse luck than even his Biblical namesake. Once they reassure him that his fears are unfounded, Richard invites Sasha and Jonah on an excursion aboard his yacht The Naughty Buoy to make amends. What starts out as a pleasure cruise becomes a fateful trip when festering suspicions and resentments bubble to the surface, and the trio become stranded on the open sea with a dead motor, extremely limited food and water, and one of them grievously injured. Unconsciously violating any number of maritime superstitions, they are soon at the mercy not so much of the elements, but of each other.

Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 has had some instant hits this year. Saturday night was no exception as HARPOON wowed audiences at its Quebec premiere. From the incredible opening shot, this film comes at you like a rabid animal. Amazing, quippy, profanity-laced dialogue kicks off a ride we are are now ready for. This love triangle at sea plays off a classic dynamic of a wealthy asshole, girlfriend, and third wheel best friend where suspicion fuels jealousy. The script utilizes literary references, voiceover narration by Brett Gelman, and the kind of honest intimacy in dialogue that you only find between best friends. But, secrets are the one thing that can be a real friendship killer, even for those not stuck out in the middle of the ocean. Our three cast members are phenomenal. I completely buy these performances. Each is funny, vulnerable, and kind of dickheaded in their own unique way. The practical fx are gruesome and awesome. Writer-director Rob Grant has given us a goddamn indie gem. It’s got a twisted ending you will never “sea” coming. What’s a little murder between friends, after all? Fantasia International Film Festival fans will go overboard for Harpoon.

Review: Based on a true story ‘Skin’ inks morality questions into our brains.

Synopsis:        After a difficult childhood drives him into the grasps of a white supremacist gang, Bryon (Jamie Bell, delivering a visceral, explosive performance) tries to escape to a new life, all the while questioning whether he’s capable of undoing— and repenting for — the evil he’s done.

Academy Award- winner Guy Nattiv makes his English-language feature debut with this galvanizing story of transformation, inspired by actual events.

Indoctrinated as a child into a white supremacist enclave, Byron finally realized the fallout of his beliefs. He is ready to start a new, tattoos and all. But past violence and pride attach themselves to his present and his attempt to escape.

Jamie Bell is ever the chameleon. His physical transformation via racist tattoos that engulf his face and upper body is pretty jarring if you know Bell’s previous work. The pain his character endures is written on his face and in his nuanced performance. Danielle MacDonald shines in yet another role. Her sharp wit and vulnerability is spot on. Vera Farmiga plays Viking club mother figure Ma. Your skin crawls as she nurtures lost youth into the lifestyle. She is truly scary.

The dialogue is unapologetically offensive. The interspersed tattoo removal sessions are some of the most effective scenes in the film with their elegant score and heightened audio. Although the film already feels long one hour in (basically halfway) the story is timely and the performances redemptive and engrossing. SKIN goes behind the scenes of a culture so vile it cannot be tolerated. The fear from the screen is visceral and incredibly effective.

Release Date:  Exclusively on DIRECTV June 27, In Theaters July 26

Running Time: 119 minutes

Rating: R

Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 review: “Culture Shock’ takes fake news to task with genre realness.

CULTURE SHOCK

The White House and their white nationalist propaganda make for great resistance in art these days. Hulu’s Blumhouse Into the Dark series is now streaming Culture Shock to its subscribers. Using real-life scenarios as a jumping-off point, this film takes illegal immigration beyond the hell we’re currently seeing at our border and brings it into true sci-fi territory. Our leading lady wakes up in a Valley Of the Dolls nightmare with its sweater vests and pastel coordinated everything and begins to lose time and all sense of rea Something about this “American Dream” is way off. Once she cracks the code, nothing can stop her from escaping.

Performances are eerie and amazing. Genre legend and timelord extraordinaire, Barbara Crampton plays a motherly figure looking after Marisol and her newborn baby. She sets the tone for the remainder of the film with her saccharine-sweet smile and creepy overbearing politeness. She is outstanding. Martha Higareda is the real wow factor. You are rooting for her the entire way and hope she gets everything she seeks. Her IDGAF survival attitude is pure magic. The script is edgy and brings a major creep factor that gets under your skin. The enhanced audio editing is a fantastic tool that heightens the inevitably squirming you’ll do while you watch. The story is one that will resonate with so many people living their own version of what is looking more and more like the American nightmare. This is a stunning debut feature for director Gigi Saul Guerrero and I know the industry, as well as Fantasia International Film Festival fans, can be excited for whatever comes next.

CULTURE SHOCK

Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 review: ‘The Art Of Self-Defense’

Jesse Eisenberg has mastered playing the quirky, whipsmart, douchebag. In The Art of Self-Defense, he plays genuinely sweet, pushover Casey looking to stand up for himself after a brutal attack. He gets a lot more than he bargains for when he signs up for karate lessons. The film is an unapologetic look at toxic masculinity.  It’s over the top dark comedy is a political blowtorch. If you can’t laugh at this film you need the stick removed from your ass. The snark factor is so high that even Casey’s answering machine is kind of a dick. Imogen Poots is equally impactful with both her physical and emotional performance. The humor lies in the absolute seriousness in which the cast says their lines. The film appears to take place sometime in the ’80s by the look of technology and funny enough, the misogynistic dialogue is most likely insanely accurate. Eisenberg is undeniably incredible. He is vulnerable and fearless and funny as hell. The Art of Self-Defense absolutely belongs at Fantasia International Film Festival 2019. The timing of the film is sheer perfection and this fest has the right audience.

THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE

Review: ‘Astronaut’ soars.

ASTRONAUT

Starring Academy Award Winner Richard Dreyfuss

Richard Dreyfuss plays Angus, a grandfather who’s family has made him feel like a burden.  Forced into a home and with failing health, Angus and his grandson see a competition held by a billionaire entrepreneur calling for applications for the first civilian flight into space. Slowly drowning in a sea of the sad and lonely old folks residents, Angus takes a leap of faith and applies under false pretense with only seconds to spare. Could this 75-year-old civil engineer make it to space, with all the odds stacked against him? Not before making waves, of course.

Astronaut isn’t just about space. It’s about humanity at best and at it’s worst. It’s about joy and loss and time. It’s about family and sacrifice. It addresses ageism is a smart way. Dreyfuss is as endearing and brilliant as ever. His ability to connect through the screen has not waned from American Graffiti to now. His genuine and grounded performance is a masterclass in technique from head to toe. It taps into the curiosity of the unknown stokes in all of us. The idea that we’re not alone. And not just with respect to space. Astronaut explores the idea that we’re somehow all connected and the need to feel seen and heard. Elegantly scored, beautifully written and directed by Shelagh McLeod, Astronaut will touch your soul.

Quiver Distribution will release the heartwarming family drama ASTRONAUT in theaters and On Demand and Digital on July 26, 2019The film will release timely to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing (7/20/1969).

ASTRONAUT stars Academy Award Winner Richard Dreyfuss (The Goodbye GirlJaws), Lyriq Bent (“She’s Gotta Have It”, Acrimony), Krista Bridges (Land of the Dead, “Schitt’s Creek”), Graham Greene (The Green MileDancing with Wolves), Richie Lawrence (“Odd Squad”, “Heroes: Reborn”) and Colm Feore (ChicagoThor).

Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 review: ‘Ode To Nothing’ is everything a cinephile wants.

Synopsis:

“Sonya, an old maid is about to give up on herself until one day, she meets a corpse in her family’s embalming business that changes her life.”

Another North American premiere at Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 is that of Ode To Nothing. The slow burn of creepy factor launches this film into skin-crawling territory. The setting alone is horror movie gold. A family mortuary? Besides My Girl, when does anything fun and happy occur? Hell, even with a mostly delightful plot, the end of My Girl still makes me bawl my eyes out every damn time I watch it! “He needs his glasses! He can’t see without his glasses!” *Cue ugly cry* Anyhow, Ode To Nothing takes the family business and infuses humor as it transitions to the unsettling. As Sonya runs the business, the mystery body becomes her confidant. The reality of her loneliness becomes next level when she takes this unknown woman’s body and treats it as her own personal best friend. I don’t know if it’s sadder or more upsetting. Imagine you find a lost dog and take it in and begin to love it. You treat it like it’s your own knowing full well that at anytime the owner could show up to claim their dog. Now replace the dog in that scenario with a dead body. Yeah, it’s just as weird as you’re picturing. The audience is unsure if it’s supposed to laugh at the lunacy or cringe at fact that both father and daughter act like this is totally normal. Therein lies the brilliance of Ode To Nothing. The film’s framing feels reminiscent of a vacation slide. We often peer through a window, a door, or watch a scene in the reflection of the mirror. It’s simply beautiful. The dialogue is unexpected in its intimacy. If you can separate yourself from the odd, the number of monologues that Marietta Subong has are stunningly performed and wonderfully honest. As the body decays, this family’s life blossoms. Ode To Nothing is something special in its eccentricity.

Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 review: DREADOUT plays well on the big screen.

Jessica, Beni, Dian, Alex, Erik, and Linda want to increase their popularity through recording their adventures to upload to their social media accounts. They chose to go to an abandoned apartment famous for its awesomeness. Linda manages to persuade Kang Heri, security guard, to enter the apartment. Linda and friends found one apartment unit which is given a police line. Encouraged by curiosity, they brake down the door of the apartment unit. When they are researching the room, they find an old parchment, which only Linda could read. After Linda reads the writing on the parchment, suddenly a portal open. Inadvertently Linda and her friends have opened the door to the magical world and anger the portal guardian supernatural creatures.

Those crazy teenagers. Always opening the gates to other worlds. DREADOUT had its North American premiere last night at Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 and audiences were not disappointed. The film begins with all the buildup of suspense and visual feel of playing the DreadOut video games. The framing feels sharp and the character dynamics are as fresh as Cabin In The Woods. As the audience peers through the cell phone lense of the group’s live stream, it has an amazing effect on how the lighting is filtered and you find yourself glancing at the viewership every so often. But mostly, it forces your attention to the mysterious surroundings even more intensely. This is simply the introduction to this film’s plot. 30 mins in, some creative and fresh hell awaits our ingenue Linda (Caitlin Halderman). She must explore her new otherworldly environment and figure out why she’s there and how to escape. The film’s location bounces between realms keeping the audience on its toes and the pace moving. The sets are incredibly intricate and the film really never ceases to entertain. Now, I’ve never played the game but it is reminiscent of Silent Hill and I have played that for years. The best shots recall first player gameplay with pointed POV camera work that’s impossible to miss. I do wish that had not completely disappeared. If I’m being honest, I could have used a bit more otherworldly background, perhaps flashes just as the gang is discovering the storyline. As someone who has not played the game, I feel like this was a missed opportunity.  As a whole, I was fully engrossed. DREADOUT has all the elements of a great horror adventure. Genre fans should be nothing but pleased.

DREADOUT

 

Review: ‘PHIL’, Greg Kinnear’s directorial debut is now in theaters and On Demand.

**Closing Night Film – Sarasota Film Festival 2019**

Phil, a depressed dentist whose life is falling apart, is shocked when one of his patients, a man who seemed to have the perfect life, kills himself. Determined to find out what would drive a man who had everything to end his life, Phil pretends to be a handyman and integrates himself into the dead man’s life, befriending his wife and daughter. How long can Phil keep up this double life when he is already ready to end his normal one?

Happiness is the ever elusive prize in life. Depression is a monster. As one man’s seemingly perfect life comes to an end, another attempts to find out why in question of his own mortality. PHIL is a story of the pursuit of happiness and what that even means.

Greg Kinnear, playing both the film’s director and titular character, is a man on the literal edge. After becoming enamored with the joy of one of his patients, he resorts to following the man until he discovers him hanging in the middle of the forest. Why would someone who has it all end his life? Phil is obsessed with answers. Kinnear, as always, is charming and grounded. There is something in this man’s eyes that makes you want to listen to him, to care for him, to experience what he experiences. Alongside an enormously talented ensemble, including Emily Mortimer, Jay Duplass, Luke Wilson, and more, PHIL explores the things in life that make us connect with one another; Stories, memories, new and old, family and friendship. Learning to not live vicariously through others is a lesson we can all take to heart. PHIL has an unexpected script and it is pure delight. This film is about growth and the exploration of self. It’s a real gem and all involved should be proud to share this story.

Quiver Distribution will release the comedy PHIL in Theaters, On Demand and Digital on July 5, 2019.

 PHIL marks the directorial debut of Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine, As Good As It Gets).  The film features an all-star cast including Kinnear, Emily Mortimer (Mary Poppins Returns, HBO’s “The Newsroom”), Jay Duplass (Amazon’s “Transparent,” Hulu’s “The Mindy Project”), Taylor Schilling (Netflix’s “Orange Is The New Black,” The Lucky One), Kurt Fuller (Midnight in Paris, Anger Management) with Luke Wilson (Legally Blonde series, Old School) and Bradley Whitford (Get Out, ABC’s “The West Wing”). The screenplay was written by Stephen Mazur (Heartbreakers, Liar Liar).

Hold onto your butts, Fantasia International Film Festival is back!

To give you an idea of why Fantasia International Film Festival is my favorite redheaded stepchild of a festival, here are a few films from my youth that still haunt/entertain the crap out of me. 1. Poltergeist: the film my father thought a 2-year-old should watch. 2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show: because a sci-fi musical with Tim Curry in drag should be shown in every Kindergarten class on the planet I inhabit. 3. Princess Bride: one of the most quotable and inconceivable films, I mean that with the utmost respect and if you say otherwise I will fight you (with a sword). 4. Pulp Fiction: a film whose dialogue is filled with sermon, innumerable expletives, drug overdose, and bloody violence for days was just the beginning of a long career of effed up magic. Love it or hate it, it was original. So, for me, Fantasia encompasses all that is weird, wonderful, wacky, wtf, and any other “w” descriptor I’m missing out on in this precise moment.

Fantasia is in its 23rd year and with every passing fest, the films you’re talking about all year play here. This festival gives genre fans something to look forward to and never disappoints. Last year, CAM, The Night Eats The World, Mega Time Squad, and Relaxer just to name a few, all rocked my socks. This year, I’m jonesing to catch a list of films that have already been buzzing for months. There are too many to share in just one post, so here are ten (ish) features I’m fired up for.


Bliss– Joe Begos brings us a blood-soaked trip. Handheld 16mm, punk rock, and vampires? Sign me up for this visceral ride. Check out the trailer in all its glory.


Ready or Not– is this a weird twist on The Most Dangerous Game meets You’re Next? All I know is that I don’t know, and I cannot wait for the mayhem to begin.


Little Monsters– who would have thought that Lupita Nyong’o would be a repeat horror heroine? And Josh Gad, beloved voice of Olaf alongside her? As a former teacher, I’m all in.


AstronautRichard Dreyfuss plays a grandfather trying to fulfill his dream of going into space. With his family as only one if his obstacles, Dreyfuss a genre legend in his own right, is sure to dazzle once more.


1BR– this is already on the Sold Out Screening list. Need I say more about a finding an apartment and the horrors that inevitably surround that experience. My guess is that this goes above and beyond the normal hassle.


Black Magic for White BoysOnur Tukel (we once described one another as “delicious and super natural” in an interview for Applesauce) is sheer perfection for Fantasia. His IDGAF attitude in his writing and directing style are ripe for genre fans. This looks absolutely… well, magical.


The LodgeVeronika Franz and Severin Fiala follow up the haunting Goodnight Mommy with their first English-language horror film. Starring a heavy-hitting cast including Richard Armitage, Alicia Silverstone, Riley Keough, and Jaeden Lieberher, trying to figure out a new family dynamic amidst a trip to a secluded lodge… On Christmas… In a blizzard. Sounds like nothing could possibly go wrong here.


Tone-Deaf– Politics has spiraled into horror in real-life since the orange garbage person cheated his way into the White House. Seems apropos for a MAGA white man and millennial to duke it out over a living situation.


Paradise Hills– With hints of A Handmaid’s Tale, this pink saturated nightmare has another phenomenal big-name cast including Mila Jovovich, Emma Roberts, and Awkwafina, to name a few. Young women being groomed in any fashion doesn’t lend itself for happy tidings.


Culture Shock– Part of Hulu’s Into the Dark horror anthology series (under the Blumhouse production name), this take on America’s “Dreamers” is killing it already. Not to mention it stars cult icon Barbara Crampton who in real-life is clearly some magical sorceress because she never ages.


And finally, every year, I personally look forward to the Born of Woman program. This year there will be 9 short films from around the globe. This year Fantasia is showcasing films from Australia, Netherlands, USA, New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Fantasia’s annual showcase of intimate, auteur genre visions returns with nine extraordinary works from an array of international talents who will leave you gobsmacked and amazed.


The number of women represented behind the camera is growing exponentially. And everyone benefits from that.

Fantasia will run from this Thursday, July 11th until August 1st. To find out more information on all the films and if you’ll be in Montreal over the next three weeks, you can purchase tickets at www.fantasiafestival.com

Review: Award-winning documentary ‘The Push’ now available on VOD platforms.

The Push


Grant Korgan is a scientist and a professional athlete. Grant Korgan should not be able to do the things he does. After sustaining a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the belly button down, his entire spirit was deflated. Until he discovered other disabled athletes were training to continue their sports and beyond. Along comes an opportunity of a lifetime; go to The South Pole, and not just go, traverse 100 miles across the polar plateau of Antarctica using only his arms to pull himself on a sled. It had never been done by someone like Grant. His entire journey, from the accident on is documented. He literally had a camera on his person as he hit the ground and, unbeknownst to him, became paralyzed. Not only does he have a camera, but his best friends and extreme sports buddies are also filming him from the bottom of the mountain. The Korgans have a camera running for all the good, the bad, the ugly of recovery and training. The Push is a story of the human spirit and the determination of Grant, his wife Shawna, and Tal, Grant’s trekking partner, and ultimate caretaker on the ice. The bond forged between these two people is unreal. Teamwork doesn’t accurately define their relationship. Tal essentially becomes the lifeguard that Shawna had been. Now she’s not there and Tal has to make decisions for the both of them. Things do not go as planned. It’s impossible to predict how Mother Nature will treat you. Faith is a real driving force in this story. Not the religious kind of faith but the belief that anything can be achieved if you just persist hard enough, long enough. The Push will make you root for these guys to succeed. Challenge after challenge will they make it to the South Pole?  And at the point of real-life danger and all the odds against them, and after all they’ve already achieved, does it even matter? Not only do we experience Grant’s South Pole excursion, but the aftermath. This is where it comes back to the human spirit, once again. There is a lot of soul searching and as Grant says, ” there is a beauty in being broken” and how you choose to view your circumstances. If you’re not crying at the end of this film I don’t even know if you’re a human being. The Push is inspiring and a film that should be shared far and wide for anyone struggling. It’s truly uplifting.

A Gravitas Ventures release, the film has just landed on Amazon and Netflix and other VOD platforms.

THE PUSH

Winner of “Best Documentary” at AmDocs Palm Springs, Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival, The Impact DOCS Awards, Long Beach International Film Festival, Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Sonoma International Film Festival, and the Vero Beach Wine & Film Festival.

Review: ‘OPHELIA’ is beautifully new madness.

 PRESENTS
Hamlet Through Her Eyes

Set in the 14th Century but spoken in a contemporary voice, OPHELIA is a dynamic re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Ophelia (Daisy Ridley) takes center stage as Queen Gertrude’s (Naomi Watts) most trusted lady-in-waiting. Beautiful and intelligent, she soon captures the attention of the handsome Prince Hamlet (George MacKay) and a forbidden love blossoms. As war brews, lust and betrayal are tearing Elsinore Castle apart from within and Ophelia must decide between her true love or her own life in order to protect a very dangerous secret.

Lust, betrayal, vanity, adultery; the reimagining of Hamlet through the eyes of Ophelia is an entirely different story. Based on the novel by Lisa Klein and in the vein of films like Ever After and perhaps even Disney’s live-action Cinderella, our leading lady is no shrinking violet. Daisy Ridley is a far cry from her role in the new Star Wars installments. As the titular character, she is inquisitive, bold, and yet her innocence plunges her headlong into the tragedy that Shakespeare writes for her. With a star-studded cast including Naomi Watts, Clive Owen, and Tom Felton, the story begins with how she became to be part of the court. Along the way, it addresses the fragility of the male egos as well as the female. It is still a story of love and honor but told from a young woman’s perspective and a few other key ladies surrounding her. The entire cast is brilliant. The costumes and sets are gorgeous. The new dialogue is ripe for this era. The added drama and intrigue is downright delicious. You cannot help but be drawn into the secrets. Ophelia’s fate makes more sense with a backstory we can experience in a visceral way. The film has everything a fairytale and period cinema lover needs to immerse themselves. But this film goes above and beyond. This new rendition is completely unexpected. It gives power back to the women in this story making Ophelia more magical than ever before. As someone great once said, “Well behaved women seldom make history.”

IFC Films will release OPHELIA  in theaters on June 28, 2019, and on digital / demand July 3, 2019.

OPHELIA stars Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force AwakensStar Wars: The Last Jedi), Naomi Watts (Mulholland DriveKing Kong), Clive Owen (CloserChildren of Men), George Mackay (Peter PanCaptain Fantastic), and Tom Felton (Harry PotterRise of the Planet of the Apes).

Review: RSVP yes to ‘PLUS ONE’

SYNOPSIS:  Long-time friends Alice and Ben find themselves in that inevitable year that all late 20-somethings experience—in which seemingly every person they know gets married—and agree to be one another’s plus ones as they power through an endless parade of insufferable weddings.

One summer I went to 6 weddings. It was equal parts fun, exhausting, and expensive. We learned who had gotten engaged, married, broken up, and gotten divorced since seeing some of the regulars at these blessed events. Some were shocking while frankly others we silently cheered their wreckage within the confines of our clique. Plus One explores these exact evolutions of so many relationships in our late 20s early 30s. Its honest charm and genuinely witty banter are just the tip of the iceberg of this film. The framework of the film is literally dated around each specific wedding weekend our duo attends. Don’t brush this film off as millennial drivel. Who hasn’t been stuck at the singles table or judged the food and speeches at a wedding? Hell, we still do it 8 years after our own wedding. Sorry, everyone. But the truth is funnier than fiction and PLus One nails these cliches on the head without being obnoxious. Jack Quaid is a nice foil for Maya Erskine. She is the best friend we all wish we had. Her natural ability to be funny and raw makes Plus One as wonderful as it is. The soundtrack, both the score by Leo Birenberg and original songs by Real Estate is outstanding. The dialogue has an amazing vulnerability with a side of raunch. The plot is universally relatable. You should save the date for Plus One without hesitation.

TITLE:  PLUS ONE
IN THEATERS:  June 14, 2019
ON DIGITAL AND ON DEMAND:  June 14, 2019
DIRECTORS:  Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer
WRITERS:  Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer
CAST:  Maya Erskine, Jack Quaid, Beck Bennett, Rosalind Chao with Perrey Reeves and Ed Begley, Jr.
TRT:  99 mins
RATING:  Not Rated
GENRE:  Romantic Comedy
DISTRIBUTOR:  RLJE Films

Review: ‘Changeland’ travels well.

CHANGLEAND

Need to get away? Seth Green‘s directorial debut, Changeland, might be just the ticket. The film stars a gaggle of actors that first made a name for themselves in some of my favorite films and television shows; Clueless, Can’t Hardly Wait, Home Alone, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Guys, Macaulay Culkin is in this. And he’s sheer perfection. So let’s break it down. Brandon (Seth Green) hops a flight for a vacation to Thailand, meeting up with a longtime friend, Dan (Breckin Meyer). It was supposed to be a wedding anniversary trip, but that’s not the plan now. Honest confessions, lingering regrets, tested intimacy, and it all feels 100% authentic. It’s that thing that occurs in even the closest of friendships. You get older, life happens. Dynamics, jobs, marital status, all change. But what better place to mend fences and mull over the future than a tropical oasis?  These guys grew up together and it shows. The natural pace of dialogue is fantastic. It’s actually easy to forget the iconic roles that I usually associate them with, and I do mean that as a compliment. Oh, and the soundtrack is amazing.
But it’s also an advertisement for Phuket, Thailand. It has gorgeous sweeping shots of mangrove forests, caves, resort restaurants, pristine beaches. It does not suck to look at. Green explores ideas of growth and insight without a hint of pretentiousness. It simply works. The perfect cast meeting an exemplary script. Changeland is not grandiose. It’s fun, charming, honest, and funny in both genuine and weird ways. For those of us who grew up with this cast on their favorite films and television shows of the 90s, this all the more age and stage relateable. Bravo, to Green and the entire cast for a wonderful film.

Gravitas Ventures will release CHANGELAND in theaters and VOD on June 7, 2019. Seth Green (“Family Guy,” “Robot Chicken”) makes his screenwriting and directorial debut with the buddy comedy-drama and stars alongside Breckin Meyer (“Robot Chicken,” Clueless).

Shot in Thailand, the movie centers on Brandon (Green), an unexceptional guy who prepaid for an exotic second honeymoon to save his failing marriage. On the eve of his anniversary, he discovers his wife’s long affair and runs away with his best friend Dan (Meyer) to avoid conflict and figure out what comes next. As they share breathtaking, once-in-a-lifetime experiences meant for a happy couple, their friendship is exposed as potentially strained as Brandon’s marriage. The characters they encounter will impact Brandon’s life forever.